Hemp Facts

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Hemp can help meet every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, and growth and sale of hemp is now legal in many countries around the world through licencing schemes and permits.

New Zealand introduced a licencing scheme for industrial hemp in 2001. The subsequent Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 set conditions allowing farmers to grow and sell hemp crops. More law changes are on the way to allow human consumption of hemp products and harness the huge economic potential of hemp.

For more information on the history of hemp, visit the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association website.

Industrial hemp (iHemp) comes from specific variants of the Cannabis Sativa plant that have been bred to have no narcotic value or psychoactive properties.

For thousands of years hemp was used to make dozens of commercial products – everything from paper and rope through to textiles and canvas. In fact, the word ‘canvas’ originates from the ancient Greek word ‘Kannabis’.

Hemp has long been a vital resource for communities around the world due to its fast-growing nature, its nutritional value, and the fantastic volumes of fibre it provides. At the time of the industrial revolution, much of the world’s textiles, clothing, canvas, rope, and paper were made from hemp. In 1883, hemp was still the primary source of the world’s paper.

Hemp has a long history of subsidising income for farmers. In fact, British laws dating back to the 1530s required farmers to grow hemp or be fined due to its positive economic influence. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp as a profitable crop to produce rope and paper. Bank notes and archival papers were made of hemp (owing to its durability) and paints and varnishes were made from hempseed oil.

In 1937, the US government passed a hemp tax due to hysteria over the narcotic effects of marijuana. Hemp was banned in many countries around the world in subsequent years, despite the fact that a person would have to smoke approximately eight hectares of hemp to feel any effect (a practical impossibility), due to its low THC content.

Hemp has recently been rediscovered as a plant with enormous environmental, economic, medicinal and commercial potential. Hempseed products are gaining recognition as a superfood and products such as hempcrete have the potential to revolutionise construction. Technological advances and modern hemp processing techniques mean innovators are coming up with more ‘miracle products’ all the time.

Did you know

  • One acre of hemp can produce four times more paper than one acre of trees, also absorbing four times the amount of CO2 from the environment in its 90 – 120 day growing cycle.
  • There are over 25,000 known uses for hemp.
  • Hemp was successfully used to reduce soil radiation and toxicity in the area surrounding Chernobyl.
  • Hemp can be used to make strong and breathable building materials such as fibre board and hempcrete.
  • According to archaeological evidence, hemp cultivation is thought to date back at least 5,000 years.

Hemp Q&A

What is industrial hemp?

Industrial hemp is a sustainable and fast-growing crop which can generate raw materials for construction, textile production and even human consumption.

Industrial hemp is made up of varieties of the Cannabis Sativa plant with an extremely low concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis. Under New Zealand law, industrial hemp is required to have a general concentration of below 0.35 per cent THC, and not above 0.5 per cent THC.

The very low levels of THC in industrial hemp mean it has little or no psychoactive properties and it is judged to be safe for humans.

What can industrial hemp be used for?

Hemp is an amazingly versatile plant. Although new and innovative uses are constantly being developed, it is mainly processed to produce the following materials:

  • Hemp fibre – hemp produces a high yield of fibres that can be processed into biodegradable textiles with antibacterial properties, rope, and innumerable other products
  • Hemp hurd – hemp hurd (pulp) is an amazingly versatile material that can be used for everything from paper making to hempcrete, fibreglass and insulation material
  • Hemp seed – an extremely nutritious cereal high in fatty acids that is a food source for humans and animals
  • Hempseed oil – can be used for everything from cooking oil and personal sanitation to industrial paint and biofuel
  • Hemp root – hemp root has medicinal properties
  • Reducing soil toxicity and heavy metal content – Hemp absorbs heavy metals and reduces soil toxicity (responsible farming practices are important for this reason).

How much money can I make growing hemp in New Zealand?

The conditions in New Zealand are excellent for hemp production. This results in high yields per hectare. The crop can be harvested within 90-100 days or matured to produce a seed crop within 140 days. The versatility of hemp means seeds, hurd (pulp), fibres, leaves and roots can all be harvested.

One hectare of hemp can produce:

  • 250 litres of hemp seed oil, used for everything from paint to food-grade cooking oil – high-quality hemp seed oil retails for up to NZD$75 per litre.
  • One metric tonne of hemp seed, a nutritious cereal that is rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids – hulled hempseed retails for up to NZD$70 per kilogram
  • Three metric tonnes of hemp fibre, valuable for the manufacture of rope and textiles – retails for around NZD$2 per kilogram
  • Six metric tonnes of hemp hurd (pulp), useful for the production of paper and construction materials such as hempcrete – retails for around NZD$1 per kilogram

Hemp also improves soil conditions and when used for specific industrial purposes, and if it is intended for use in the construction industry rather than human or animal consumption, it can also be grown on contaminated soils. In short, Hemp has great economic potential.

How can NZ Hemp Brokers help?

If you or your organisation are interested in growing industrial hemp, we can help with licensing, supplying seeds, growing guidance, and information on the correct nutrients and fertilisers to use.

We can help oversee your crop testing by the Ministry of Health, reduce paperwork and support growers to focus on doing what they do best – growing crops. Once the crop is ready, we can also help you to harvest, process and market your crop.

If you’re interested in finding out more about current market prices and growing hemp in New Zealand, you are welcome to contact us for a consultation.

Are industrial hemp products legal in New Zealand?

People are permitted to possess, use and trade in industrial hemp products

Industrial hemp varieties are termed as controlled drugs in New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Anyone looking to grow, trade in, or process industrial hemp as an agricultural crop needs to be licensed under the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006.

Why do I need a licence?

While hemp is categorically safe for humans, the presence of small quantities of THC means the Government requires a licensing scheme.

Licences are issued by the New Zealand Ministry of Health if the applicant and any others listed as ‘responsible persons’ on licence are deemed to be suitable to be involved in the cultivation and supply of industrial hemp. There is no limit to the number of licences that can be issued or limit on area sown, although conditions to growing locations and specific types of industrial hemp plant that are authorised for growing apply.

Possession and processing of hemp products is legal and does not require a licence. But it is an offence to possess or process low-THC hemp without a licence unless it was cultivated or supplied under the licence conditions stated in the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006.

Hemp seed can currently be sold for processing into oil for use in various products including oil for food in New Zealand. Hemp foods can be exported to countries where their consumption is legal, but are currently prohibited for human consumption in New Zealand pending legislative changes expected in the second half of 2018. Use of hemp as food for livestock is currently legal in New Zealand.

How do I get a licence to cultivate or supply industrial hemp?

To obtain a licence, various requirements must be met. These include:

  • Payment of a $511 license fee to the Ministry of Health on for processing of your application.
  • A licence will usually be valid for one year and then renewed for 3 years.
  • Before a licence can be granted, the New Zealand Police must conduct a vetting check for the applicant and any responsible persons named on the licence.
  • Growers and suppliers need to keep records including details of seed purchase and sale, sowing, harvest, disposal of plant material and seed and results of compulsory THC analysis.

An application form and supporting information can be obtained from the Ministry of Health website.

If you would like help applying for a licence to grow industrial hemp, please feel free to contact us directly and we can support you with an application.

Where can I buy industrial hemp seed?

Current New Zealand suppliers include NZ Hemp Brokers, Midlands Seed Ltd, and The Hemp Farm.

Industrial hemp seed can also be obtained from overseas; however, additional costs may be incurred due to import requirements such as quarantine clearance and you can only import approved cultivars. NZ Hemp Brokers has access to various overseas cultivars, and you are welcome to contact us for advice on the cultivars that are most likely to meet your needs.